Jan 08, 2024

Young writers join the party!

The popular Write Stuff competition for the Bailiwick’s young writers is celebrating its 10th birthday in 2024 – and it’s party time for this year’s challenge.  That's right, the title of the 300-word stories submitted must include the words 'The Party' – everything else is up to the writer.

The competition, which is organised in conjunction with the Guernsey Literary Festival and attracted a record 883 entries from 26 schools last year, is launched on 8 January and the deadline for submissions is 8 March.

The entries will be judged by top UK and international children’s book authors Rashmi Sirdeshpande, Sam Copeland, Frances Hardinge and Huw Lewis Jones.

Young writers can choose the setting, the characters and the plot for whatever kind of party their imagination can conjure up. The main story should contain up to 300 words, while they can add extra words to ‘The Party’ in the title to set the scene.

For example, they might want to create the start of a murder mystery through a title like ‘The Party at Macabre Manor’ or perhaps they’d prefer a science fiction setting such as ‘The Party at World’s End’, or a ghost story with a title like ‘The Party’s Last Guest’.  It could be a party where something wonderful happens . Or . . .!

The judges will be looking for originality and imagination, with the focus on story and plot,  an impressive quality of writing and crafting of language which conveys a clear sense of occasion, and a story or episode which is vivid, original and memorable.

 As in previous years, there are four classes, Primary (years 3-6), Intermediate (years 7-9) and Senior (years 10+), and a class for writers with special educational needs. The competition is sponsored by Julius Baer and promoted by Guernsey Literary Festival partners including YouAndUs, the Guille-Allès Library, Guernsey Arts and Island Families.

Primary class judge Rashmi Sirdeshpande is an award-winning children’s author and a former World Book Day author whose books have been published around the world and featured in a number of newspapers from The Guardian to The Wall Street Journal. Her first picture book, Never Show a T-Rex a Book, illustrated by Diane Ewen, won the Society of Authors Queen’s Knickers Awards and the Anna Dewdney Award in the USA and was shortlisted for the Lollies. The sequel, Never Teach a Stegosaurus To Do Sums, was shortlisted for the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Awards and was a Children’s Book Council Children’s Favourites and Teacher Favourites winner in the USA. 

Intermediate class judge Sam Copeland is an author from Manchester who now lives in London with one smelly dog, two smelly cats, three smelly children and one relatively clean-smelling wife. He is the author of the bestselling Charlie Changes Into a Chicken series (the first book of which was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize), Uma and the Answer to Absolutely Everything and Greta and the Ghost Hunters and The Bear Behind. With Jenny Pearson, he has also written Tuchus & Topps Investigate: The Underpants of Chaos. His next novel Alex vs Axel: The Impossible Worlds is coming in 2024. He is also a literary agent and director at Rogers, Coleridge and White where he represents some of the world’s most successful, bestselling writers.

Senior judge Frances Hardinge spent a large part of her childhood in a huge old house that inspired her to write strange stories from an early age. She read English at Oxford University, then got a job at a software company. However, a few years later a persistent friend finally managed to persuade Frances into sending a few chapters of Fly By Night, her first children’s novel, to a publisher. Macmillan made her an immediate offer. The book went on to publish to huge critical acclaim and win the Branford Boase First Novel Award. She has since written many highly acclaimed children’s novels including the 2011 sequel to Fly by Night, Twilight Robbery, as well as the Carnegie shortlisted Cuckoo Song and the Costa Book of the Year winner, The Lie Tree. Her latest books are Unraveller and Island of Whispers.

SEND judge Dr Huw Lewis Jones is a polar-exploring author and naturalist, who grew up in Guernsey. He now lives in Cornwall where he is a professor at Falmouth University, teaching natural history and other creative things. Huw also travels across the Arctic and Antarctica each year working as an expedition leader. He has written numerous books for children, including award-winning Do Bears Poop in the Woods?Do Penguins Like the Cold?, the Bad Apple series of picture books, and the best-seller Clive Penguin. To date, his books have been published in 19 languages. Huw is a Guest Curator of the Guernsey Literary Festival.

Filter judges this year include Julia Bichard and Adam Bayfield from the Guille-Alles Library, local author Nick Le Messurier and Suzie Almond, a creative education specialist with experience of first round judging for the BBC 500 words and Settle Stories.

The WriteStuff winners will be announced in May and the prizes will be given out during the Guernsey Literary Festival at the Competition Awards Ceremony on Saturday 4 May. This year’s Festival runs from 23 April to 5 May.

Alexandra McInnes, Managing Director of Julius Baer Guernsey, which has sponsored the Write Stuff for a number of years, says, ‘The Write Stuff goes from strength to strength and we’re sure this year is going to be the biggest and best one yet. The young writers always bring creative thinking to the challenge and The Party is a fantastic start point for any budding young author. We can’t wait to read the entries and be involved with what is always a fantastic competition.’

There will be a cash prize of £50 and a trophy for the winner in each category, with £25 cash prizes for second and third places. There is also a £50 cash prize and a certificate for both primary and secondary winners of the Special Educational Needs (SEND) class.

Winners will also receive a signed book and an original illustration by local illustrator Sheena Le Messurier, who has been commissioned to produce bespoke illustrations of the winning stories. The winning stories and illustrations will also be displayed at the Guille-Allès Library and local schools.

Up to five highly commended prizes will also be available in each category. Each highly commended winner will receive a £10 book token and a certificate as well as their story published on the website.

All entries should be submitted directly through the website www.writestuff.gg. Further information is available by contacting [email protected] or calling 07781 143545. Details will also be available from the Guille-Alles Library or school libraries.

Huw Lewis Jones will be doing a marathon tour of as many Guernsey primary schools as possible in a week, starting on 15 January, to speak to young writers about the competition.